Occupy Wall Street
What might it mean
for our nation and the world?
What are your thoughts of
the Occupy Wall Street movement?
What are you doing about it?
What do you think PVJ should do about it?
send a note,
and we'll share it here.
races through dark countryside.
frame the beautiful and well-to-do
at party speed.
farmers hear the passing;
drivers at crossings
get fast-forward images;
music is gone
almost before it’s heard.
the train slows in the city
but does not stop;
from smudged windows
of foul-staired tenements
families with more mouths to feed
in dining cars, lounge cars,
cars of luxury suites,
gravy train passengers know little
of scenes outside.
in window glass
they see nothing but themselves.
these rolling revelries have gone on for decades,
but tonight’s may be the last.
a century ago
the railroad built a trestle just beyond the city.
people were in covenant
to see such things got done.
all would pay the cost,
rich and poor alike,
and all would hire some few
to have the bridge maintained.
but those who paid the most
soon felt it all unfair.
they had the power to change the contract,
divert trestle money
to funding more self-congratulation rides,
and so they did.
the bridge would always be there,
would it not?
timbers now are rotted,
steel beams show spreading rust.
when the tragic collapse takes place
the verdict will surely be
“avoidable, yet inevitable”
with rumors of sabotage.
Jack King (October 2011)
The poet (who happens to
be your WebWeaver’s brother) comments: “I had a good time writing it
- seemed the very positive consciousness-raising that the movement
has accomplished needed some celebrating.”
Desmond Tutu urges Trinity Church to
allow Occupy protester camp
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has waded into an
ecclesiastical row over a New York church's refusal to allow
protesters from Occupy Wall Street to camp on a vacant lot it owns.
here to read more on the Common Dreams website >>
with her late husband Dudley Sarfaty a long-time supporter of
Witherspoon/PVJ, sent this note about the Tutu story:
I want to be
there for the Occupiers – as I see this as one voice for the
People of God, through the Churches; Jesus seems always to stand
with the disenfranchised, no doubts. Can I just pick and choose
which issues related to justice, truth and goodness I want to
relate to - or am I willing to be on God's side here and in all
such 'calls to justice'? The OWS cries out for economic justice,
and the heavily monied folk balk! Ouch!!! As the poet reminds,
"our silence will not save us!" I am always happy to see the
courage of the ever smiling, joyful Bp.Tutu! Cheers! Elizabeth
takes a look at the “Occupy Wall Street” movement
Thorson-Smith, a member of the PVJ Coordinating Team, has gathered
reports from Vicki Moss in New York, Bill Dummer in Milwaukee, and
Sarah McKasson in Tucson.
For other perspectives on this potentially
transformative movement in the never-ending struggle for
justice, you might take a look at these sources:
Unbound: An Interactive Journal of Christian Social
on-line successor of the much-respected Church &
Society, produced by the Advisory Commission for Social
Witness Policy of the PC(USA) focuses its first issue on
The Dark Night of the
American Economy: On economic crisis and
injustice. It presents an excellent variety of
analysis, from the perspectives of church policy
statements, theological and Biblical reflection, and
economics. It even offers some suggestions of visions
for the future of this movement for justice, which many
have seen as one of the crucial weaknesses of the Occupy
for a full list of the contents of this great new
The Occupiers are striking a responsive chord
Robert Reich, writing for Huffington Post, argues that
the Occupy movement is already having a real impact on
“the public debate in America.” He says that “for the
first time in more than half a century, a broad
cross-section of the American public is talking about
the concentration of income, wealth, and political power
at the top.”
OCCUPY the USA
by Sylvia Thorson-Smith
’Tis the season to re-imagine☺the
60s. For some of us who lived through those times, the Occupy Wall
Street movement brings back memories of social activism and
solidarity of purpose that has little been seen since then. The
movements are vastly different – now being less interested in
“dropping out” of the establishment than dropping into a more
egalitarian society with jobs and basic security for all.
Rich, in the October 31 issue of New York magazine,
compares “the death throes of Herbert Hoover’s presidency in June
1932” with some of the events occurring today. In his article, “The
Class War Has Begun,” he reminds readers that Congress bailed out
“greedy bankers and financiers” while failing to pay a modest bonus
promised to veterans of WWI. A “motley assemblage” of up to 20,000
middle-class men who couldn’t find jobs staged a massive vigil on
the lawn of the US capitol, keeping their “improvised hovels clean
and maintaining small gardens.”
This is the stuff of social movements; we may rarely see them
coming, but once they are upon us, there’s no turning back until
society confronts the issues that have ignited collective protest.
Several board members of Presbyterian Voices for Justice have
submitted reports about the Occupy Wall Street movement that is
spreading across America. We want to share them with you in the hope
of making connections and forging links of solidarity that include a
witness by Presbyterians and other people of faith.
Vikki Moss reports that she and her husband John Harris were
in Zucotti Park (in the Wall Street area) as the police kept
people moving so the sidewalk wouldn’t be blocked. She writes “that
there were so many different people there. A girl with pink hair,
youngish people handing out Occupy Wall Street newspapers, people in
costumes (one as Uncle Sam), lots of signs, a guy with a mask
dressed in a suit, a family with kids holding signs talking to the
media about their concern for their hamsters if they run out of
money or lose their house, people of all ages. The crowd was very
low key and peaceful. I didn’t hear the human microphone but
drumming was going on at the south end of the park. There were lots
of police all over the financial district, not just around the park.
Most of them seemed relaxed and casual about the whole situation.”
Bill Dummer, PVJ Moderator, writes of attending Occupy
Milwaukee for two of their actions:
The first day of action of the movement in Milwaukee was scheduled
for October 15. The e-mail information I received said to meet for a
rally at Zeidler Union Square. It was not only strategically located
but symbolic in its name. Frank Zeidler was the beloved socialist
mayor of Milwaukee in the 40s and 50s. It is a small, half-block
square park. The information said there would be a rally at 11:00
before a march. So I headed to the park about that time. However,
when I got there, I learned that the plans had changed. There were
people of all ages there, some with signs, some without. One that
caught my eye early read “Keep your corporate hands off my
government.” There were a lot of younger people with signs about
student loans. The media were there, interviewing some of the people
who were gathering. I recognized some of the faces from previous
anti-war rallies and such. But I found it curious that I did not see
any of the regulars I see when I go to the Milwaukee County
Democratic Party meetings. While we waited, little clusters of
people would begin chants. The most popular one was from the
protests in Madison in February and March, “This is what democracy
A variety of interest groups had set up booths to provide
information on their angle of the cause. The information sheet that
was passed out to people indicated that the march would begin at
noon. It would go to the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and Water
Street, which is the location of several big banks, namely J P
Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Associated. At each of these banks
yellow crime scene tape would be put on the entrances. The rally
would begin there with the first of the “We Are the 99%” speakers.
Then the crowd would move a half block north to M & I Bank (which
recently became part of Canadian BMO Bank). The same scenario would
be repeated there. The march went back to Wisconsin & Water where a
teach-in was conducted on the role of non-violent civil disobedience
in movements for social change. The march then returned the five
blocks to Zeidler Park.
The media reported that evening that the march included 3000 people.
The second action event of Occupy Wall Street Milwaukee took place
in a different location on October 29. It was billed as Occupy the
Hood, and its focus was the lack of jobs for people living in the
inner city. The staging area was Lincoln Park on the north side of
the city. The event began at Noon with a half hour performance of a
“drum line,” which put on a good show of African style drumming.
Then there was a series of speakers discussing the employment
situation in Milwaukee, particularly as it relates to inner-city
residents. Once again, there were people of all ages participating.
This time, however, there were more African-American young people.
Not everyone participated in the march as it would be about three
miles to the empty factory shell of A O Smith, which at one time
manufactured many things, including the chassis of almost all of the
It was good to get moving, in order to get warmed up. The escort of
about 10 officers on motorcycles (Harleys, of course), plus another
10 on bicycles cleared the two thoroughfares that we walked on,
creating quite the spectacle for the residents. Once again, there
were a variety of signs, but it seemed like the most were “Recall
Scott Walker” (the Republican Governor). We got to our destination
in about an hour. When we arrived at the first gate, the guard would
not let us on the factory grounds, so the leaders asked us to sit
down where we were (in a minor thoroughfare). Some more speeches
were made, calling attention to the fact that this factory at one
time employed a couple thousand people. Part of it is in operation,
as a Spanish company is using it to make high-speed rail cars.
However, it too will soon be moving, since the Governor rejected
federal money for high-speed rail in Wisconsin. I left to hike back
to my car in the park before the speeches were over. The news
reported that only about 300 people participated in this march.
Sarah McKasson, a member of St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church
in Tucson (where I’m also a member), writes of her participation
in Occupy Tucson:
My sister Molly and I followed Occupy Wall Street online and in the
papers. When we found out there was going to be an Occupy Tucson, we
agreed that we would be there on opening day. Molly and I made our
signs the night before – we were ready! The kick-off for Occupy
Tucson was held in a city park near the downtown area. Newspapers
estimated the crowd at 500 people. It was great to walk around and
read all the signs, mostly hand made. Some were “laugh out loud”
funny and many were very poignant. Molly and I stood with about
thirty other protesters in a corner of the park and waved our signs
at passing cars. Most of the drivers gave us thumbs up or peace
signs. It was a really hot day in Tucson, so we moved to a shady
area in the park and listened to some of the many speakers address
All in all, it was a very peaceful protest, except for one person
who walked through the crowd yelling “stop picnicking and get a
job.” A few of the protestors attempted to engage him in some
dialogue, but he just kept shouting and moving through the crowd.
Some of the peacekeepers from Occupy Tucson surrounded him for his
safety, even though no one was physically threatening him. That’s
the great thing about our country: everyone has the right of free
speech. Other than that one event, it was a very peaceful day. The
protesters were a very diverse group of ages, background and
ethnicity. The best part was the number of young people who were
there. It was so heartening to see them step up and participate in
Frank Rich has some analysis that seems worth including in this
story. “Politicians in either party, of course, never use the term
‘class warfare’ to describe what’s going on in America, unless it’s
Republican leaders accusing Obama of waging it every time he even
mildly asserts timeless liberal bromides about taxing the rich. Nor
do most politicians want to talk about the depth of the crisis in
present-day capitalism, since to acknowledge its scale would only
dramatize how little they intended to do about it. The whole system
is screwed up, and it’s not all Wall Street’s fault – or remotely in
the financial sector’s power alone to solve.”
We Christians are committed to serve a just and loving God who
strengthens us to confront the powers and principalities of
injustice, trusting that nothing can separate us from God’s love and
presence. As we watch and participate in these Occupation movements
across the country, may we work to fashion the society that we
pledge allegiance to in both church and nation, one that truly
institutionalizes “liberty and justice for all.”
A New Declaration of Independence
of the 1 Percent has become intolerable. How can we take our country
back? Alex Parene, writing for and with the staff of Salon.com, has
offered a draft of
“a new Declaration of Independence.” He begins:
Parene goes on to do something many observers have
been asking for: trying to make the Occupiers’ project more focused
by presenting a list of “demands,” which he presents as “the
beginning of a conversation, not a final product.” His main demands:
Here’s where we are in the course of human
events right now: 14 million Americans are jobless and millions
more are underemployed. Those still working have seen wages fall
after 30 years of stagnation. The 1 Percent of top wage earners
could buy and sell the rest of us without so much as a low
balance warning on their checking account apps. The tenth-of-1
Percent earns millions more every year in barely taxed capital
gains and derivatives while everyone else struggles to pay down
trillions of dollars of debt. Massive, growing income inequality
is now belatedly acknowledged by political and media elites, but
many of them seem befuddled as to its cause and importance.
It is our belief that many of the problems
facing Americans today can be directly connected to the
unchecked power and complete unaccountability of the 1 Percent,
a group that benefits from every unequal boom of the modern era
and escapes each disastrous bust unscathed. ...
What unites the outraged 99 Percent is that we
have all “played by the rules,” only to learn belatedly that the
game was rigged. Having been promised modest rewards for working
within the system, by taking on debt or voting the party line,
we find ourselves, bluntly, shit out of luck.
1. Debt relief
2. A substantial jobs program
3. A healthcare public option
4. Reregulate Wall Street
5. End the Global War on Terror and rein in the defense budget
6. Repeal the Patriot Act
7. Tackle climate change
8. Stop locking everyone up for everything and end the drug war
9. Full equality for the queer community
10. Fix the tax system
So ... what's our response to the Occupy Wall Street movement?
This great comment comes from
John Shuck, pastor of
First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee, and blogger extraordinaire.
An Open Letter to the Occupiers from a Veteran Troublemaker
The Rev. Jim Wallis offers appreciation of the way
the Occupiers’ movement is raising vital and long-neglected
questions, but also suggests the need for some proposals for action.
Among other things, he writes:
You are raising very basic questions about an
economy that has become increasingly unfair, unstable,
unsustainable, and unhappy for a growing number of people. Those
same questions are being asked by many others at the bottom, the
middle, and even some at the top of the economic pecking order.
There are ethics to be named here, and the
transition from the pseudo-ethic of endless growth to the moral
ethics of sustainability is a conversation occurring even now in
our nation's business schools (if, perhaps, secreted inside the
Keep pressing those values questions because
they will move people more than a set of demands or policy
suggestions. Those can and must come later.
Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering
Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery, and CEO of
Sojourners. He blogs at
What are your thoughts of
the Occupy Wall Street movement?
What are you doing about it?
What do you think PVJ should do about it?
send a note,
and we'll share it here.
Some blogs worth visiting
Mitch Trigger, PVJ's
Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where
Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and
views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both
personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!
You can post your own news and views,
or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.
for Life" website
Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck,
a Presbyterian minister currently
serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton,
Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized
and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and
Click here for his blog posts.
Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores
the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."
John Harris’ Summit to
Theological and philosophical
reflections on everything between summit to shore, including
kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology,
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens
neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City
Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon
board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in
Voices of Sophia blog
Heather Reichgott, who has created
this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:
After fifteen years of scholarship
and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the
voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy,
students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers
and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God
in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God
through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through
articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!